Scott: The Opening Ceremonies for the 2014 Winter Olympics is set for tomorrow, but the games are already underway. Countries started going head-to-head in competition in three events today. And Shelby Holliday is joined by a special guest to help kick off our coverage with an Olympic-sized pop quiz.
Shelby: What’s up, guys. I am Shelby Holliday here with Ashley Wagner from the U.S. women’s figure skating team. She has your first Olympic pop quiz!
Ashley Wagner: Alright. Hey, everybody! So, this year, the Winter Olympics are in Sochi, Russia. Do you guys know where Russia is? Is it A, B, C, or D?
You have ten seconds!
Time’s up! The right answer is A.
Shelby: You would have got that right. Right?
Shelby: Well, Russia is a big country with a long history with the U.S. Spanning across two continents, Europe and Asia, Russia is the largest country in the world. It occupies one-tenth of Earth’s land, stretches across nine time zones, and borders three oceans – the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Arctic.
Extending all the way up into the Arctic Circle, Russia is famous for its freezing temperatures. It is even home to the coldest village on Earth. But because this year’s games are being held in Sochi, a subtropical city on the coast of the Black Sea in southwest Russia, the 2014 Winter Olympics are expected to be the warmest on record.
Patrick Meek: It’s a unique place and I think it’s going to be a fun place to have the Olympics.
Shelby: The games in Sochi are also making history for other reasons. With a price tag upwards of $50 billion, this Olympics will be the most expensive ever.
Billy Demong: You know, they’re doing so much work in the new buildings going up that it’s going to be cool to see it all finished.
Shelby: It will also have some of the tightest security, thanks to rising fears over terrorist threats in the region. And twelve new Olympic events will debut this year, including slopestyle skiing and women’s ski jumping. The Sochi games will also mark the first time the country of Russia has ever held the Winter Olympics.
When the Summer Games of 1980 were held in the Russian capital of Moscow, Russia, along with many of today’s Eastern European countries, was part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the USSR. Back then, the USSA was embroiled in a bitter cold war with the U.S. and its Western allies, a period of intense political and military tension after World War II when both sides were building up stockpiles of nuclear weapons. So, in 1980, the U.S. called on more than sixty countries to boycott the Olympics in Moscow.
Fast-forward thirty years later and a lot has changed. The U.S. and Russia are no longer enemies, although the relationship is strained. And this year’s Olympics still have a great deal of political controversy. Some have called for boycotts over Russia’s anti-gay laws and alleged human rights abuses. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has also clashed with the West over the war in Syria and he elevated tensions with the U.S. by allowing Edward Snowden, who leaked secret government documents, to stay in their country.
Despite calls for protest, this year’s Olympics will go on. And more than 2,500 athletes representing more than eighty countries will be competing for medals in Sochi.
Lolo Jones: All the athletes are just looking forward to just competing at Sochi and, hopefully, being on that podium and hearing the national anthem.
David Backes: We’ve got a lot of fire burning and it’s really given us motivation to have a great games in Sochi.
Shelby: Shelby Holliday, Channel One News.
Scott: And there is already some news out of Sochi. Shaun White, snowboarding’s biggest name, won’t be competing in today’s slopestyle event for the risk of injury on a controversial course that has already left some athletes hurt.
Now, if you want to keep up with all of the action at the Winter Games, be sure to bookmark Passport: Sochi at Channelone.com. Go, Team USA! Right?